April 4, 2007
It’s a bad idea to try to pin any sort of narrative on Monster — simply put, one does not exist — but in the context of the album, “You” is the logical conclusion to its general theme of obsessive, unrequited love. By the time we get to “You,” the cuteness of “Crush With Eyeliner,” the coyness of “King of Comedy,” and the earnestness of “Strange Currencies” are all distant memories, and even the destructive self-loathing of “I Took Your Name” and “Circus Envy” has run its course. At this point in the record, the singer’s religion is thoroughly and irrevocably lost, and all that is left is an aching emotional void and a lingering, undead desire.
Peter Buck’s guitars dominate the track, with an eerie pulse emphasizing a sense of post-traumatic shock, and a heavy, slashing rhythm evoking nothing less than total emotional devastation. Michael Stipe’s vocal performance is intense yet slightly disconnected, lending even his most benign sentiments a creepy, unhealthy tone. The song contains some of the most evocative images of Stipe’s career as a lyricist — “all my childhood toys with chew marks in your smile,” “I can see you there with lunar moths and watermelon gum” — but the peculiar specificity of the words only highlights the song’s desperate, deranged sensibility.
As the track comes to an end, Stipe repeats the word “you” with increasingly urgency as the music hits a chilling peak. It sounds like an act of self-nullification, as though he could only think to destroy himself by focusing his entire existence on someone else. When the song begins, Stipe’s character seems physically disconnected from his body and the world, and in its final moments, his mind seems to disappear as well.